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On November 5 nine law abiding citizens gathered peacefully across the street from D&E Pizza in Canton, which is owned by Canton Selectman Chris Albert. The protesters were threatened with arrest by four Canton Police Officers, who came with a printout of MGL Chapter 268, Section 13A, which they claimed that the protesters were in violation of. Officer Robert Zepf initially told the protesters that they were in violation of the law because they were within eyesight of Albert, but later admitted to the protesters on video that they were “100% correct” in their assertion that the statute does not mention anything about being within eyesight of a “witness.”
Zepf told them that their protest was in violation of 13A because:
- They were across the street from a witness to a “criminal crime”
- They were within eye shot of Chris Albert
- Chris Albert is a witness because he testified in front of a grand jury, even though that grand jury (in the Karen Read case) was ended over a year ago, and he is no longer a witness in that regard
- The content of their signs was what made their protest illegal because it had language relating to the Karen Read case
- He could not determine what the protesters were intending to do, yet he was accusing them of being in violation of a law that specifically requires police to show the intent of the accused
Despite the fact that the Canton Police admitted on video that the protesters were not in violation of 13A, at least four of the Canton 9 have received summonses to appear in Stoughton District Court for a clerk magistrate’s hearing, because CPD has filed a criminal complaint against them. These charges include not only the 13A picketing of a witness statute, but also charges for violation of the much more serious 13B felony witness intimidation statute.
These are the 9 individuals the government would like to now classify as felons.
Although five of the nine have not received a summons, it’s highly likely they will be. They have no criminal record, they are productive members of society with families, including children, and the Canton Police Department are attempting to turn them into felons in order to protect the feelings of a bunch of people who conspired to cover up a murder. They filed these charges two days after the people of Canton voted to audit the police department, and in direct retaliation for filing a lawsuit against them in federal court.
The kid holding the “Colin Albert was in the house” sign is 17 years old, and has been summonsed to Dedham Juvenile Court for a hearing on December 18. The Canton Police Department is trying to lock up minors for exercising their First Amendment rights.
The charges have not officially been filed yet. A clerk magistrate hearing is conducted for the purposes of deciding whether or not there is probable cause to charge a defendant with a crime. The bar for probable cause is much lower than guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but they will be given the opportunity to defend themselves. I was not given the opportunity to do this, and was arrested at my home by the State Police fugitive unit.
Their hearings appear thus far will all conducted on January 4 in front of Stoughton District Court clerk magistrate Lauren Greene in 30 minute increments. It’s in the best interest of all of these peaceful protesters to make sure the charges are not filed, because the cost of litigation after that will become much more expensive. I have recommended having one attorney for all of them, since the charges against all 9 will be the same. A fundraiser has been created to help with their attorney’s fees.
There are no grounds for any sort of charges here. The statute the protesters were given clearly states that, “Whoever with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any witness in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building occupied by such witness…”
As the protesters pointed out in the video above, there was no intent to interfere with or obstruct the administration of justice, nor was there any intent to influence a witness. Not once did any of the protesters tell Chris Albert how he needed to testify, or suggest what he should do. They simply stood there with signs saying “Justice,” “Free Karen Read,” “Free Turtleboy,” and “Colin Albert was in the house.”
Chris Albert knows that his son was involved in the murder of John O’Keefe, and he knows that Karen Read is completely innocent. He is weaponizing his connections to law enforcement and presenting himself as a victim in order to silence legitimate criticism of his family’s role in the murder of O’Keefe. Chris is not the least bit intimidated or scared of any of these people, he just doesn’t like that they are pointing out the crimes committed by his family because it makes him feel uncomfortable.
Chris sent this message to a Canton resident in August who had messaged him about his behavior.
“Please stop this intimidating me so I don’t testify.”
Chris had clearly been coached to say this by police because they realized that you can’t charge someone with witness intimidation unless they are attempting to stop you from testifying. His brother is a Canton Police detective, and he is friends with Chief Rafferty. The middle aged woman who sent him this message was not intimidating him, she just was expressing her dismay about an elected official’s behavior.
“A witness in a state murder trial, I’d be careful you don’t get in trouble for intimidating a witness.”
This was an ominous threat from Albert to his constituent that she should “be careful” if she wants to express her disapproval of his leadership, or else she could “get in trouble for intimidating a witness.” Considering Chris has direct contacts with the police and DA’s Office, this is a legitimate threat that would prevent anyone from criticizing him in the future. Will the police now begin charging protesters who show up to Selectmen meetings with signs? Chris Albert believes he cannot be protested in any way, shape, or form, and he knows that law enforcement will do his bidding for him.
Two of the Canton 9 are residents of Canton, and are represented by Chris Albert on the Board of Selectmen. They have every right to protest their elected officials, and those rights do not cease to exist simply because an elected official becomes a witness in a criminal case.
Attorney Marc Randazza filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the protesters, and asked Judge Denise Casper to issue a temporary restraining order barring the police from disrupting future peaceful protests at D&E Pizza. Judge Casper denied the TRO on the grounds that it was “not clear” that the Canton 9 “faced a credible threat of prosecution.”
She went on to claim that the Canton 9 have not shown a risk of having their right to protest being denied by Canton Police, that CPD did not prohibit protests related to the Karen Read case, and that the Canton 9 have not had their speech chilled.
It turns out she was wrong about all of that. The Canton Police were actively planning to charge the Canton 9 while claiming in court that no one was charged. As a direct result there has been a chilling effect on anyone else who might be inclined to protest in Canton.
It should be noted that I have been holding peaceful protests in front of D&E Pizza all summer, and on the two occasions the police were called they determined that my protests were lawful. It was not until recently that they suddenly realized that ACTUALLY these protests are a felony. Here’s a video of CPD telling me they “appreciate” what I was doing, and when I said I’d be in Canton a lot more hey said “OK.”
Here is a video of Canton Police confronting me during a peaceful protest, which the Commonwealth now claims is illegal witness intimidation. The cop tells me he appreciates what I did. I told him I'd be in Canton a lot more. He said "OK":https://t.co/MoYyIwqsqE
— Aidan Kearney (@DoctorTurtleboy) November 14, 2023
Here’s a video of Officer Zepf telling me that my actions were “fine” after the police were called on us by Jim Farris and Chris Albert. The police apparently did not realize that I was committing a felony until recently.
Here is another video of Canton Police responding to D&E Pizza over my peaceful protest. Officer Zepf makes it clear that my actions are "fine" before going on his way. If what I was doing was felony witness intimidation then why did police allow me to keep doing it? pic.twitter.com/pxJNZCP8h8
— Aidan Kearney (@DoctorTurtleboy) November 14, 2023
What would happen if hundreds, or even thousands of people began protesting outside of D&E Pizza? How many people are the Canton Police willing to turn into felons? How many innocent people will it take for the Attorney General or Governor to intervene and protect free speech rights in Canton? When will the ACLU chime in on this? Will this threat of prosecution create a further chilling effect and prevent people from protesting moving forward?
We will keep you updated on this situation as more information becomes available.